Detroit BikeBlog

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        February 14th, Six More Weeks of Winter

2009 Detroit Snow river
A fresh cover of snow this weekend

2009 detroit ice
Good news for a brave few

2009 detroit Aquarium

2009 detroit Aquarium
Ice Breaker USCGC Mackinaw crabs into Detroit after clearing 14inch ice on Eerie

2009 detroit Atwater block brewery
After a day biking around through the snow, only one choice for the evening...
sitting on the sofas in front of the fire with a glass of porter at Atwater Brewery.

        February 8th, Shiver on the River

Biking into work these past two weeks has been tough. I mean damned tough. If it wasn't the drifting snow or freezing slush it was the sub-zero (-16-20C) temps with brisk winds. It may be only a 30 minute ride each way, but that's enough to lose feeling in ears, fingers toes. So it was that this weekend when we hit the Shiver on the River festival as temperatures spiked to 50 degrees (+8C) we ironically had our first comment, a guy came up to us and cheerfully suggested that biking in this weather was an extreme sport! Anyway, the Shiver on the River was generally a great chance to see what remains of the Aquarium, opened August 18th 1904 and closed by the city to help balance the budget in the summer of 2005.

Since then it has been maintained by a bunch of volunteers with the aim of ultimately reopening the building. It's rather a sad sight inside. While the structure has been largely maintained with little sign yet of the abandoned building syndrome, the rows of empty fish tanks in this once proudly historic building was slightly depressing. It's a reminder that while the city may provide support for cultural resources, ultimately it comes down to us to use them if they're to be continued. I know I didn't once visit the Aquarium prior to its closing despite many times visiting the next door conservatory. Mea culpa.

2009 Detroit Aquarium shiver on the river
The inside recalls the tunnel between terminals at KDTW

2009 detroit Aquarium
I imagine that empty at night this place could be somewhat ominous

2009 detroit Aquarium
Michiagn's 'Only' and America's Oldest Aquarium (pic Clo)

2009 Belle Isle Ice Fountain
The 18ft Belle Isle Ice Fountain Battles Unseasonal Temperatures

        January 25th, Great Glacier Lakes

Ice continues to create obstacles to shipping on the lakes and opportunities for local fishermen. The Iron Ore trade between ports that don't straddle the Soo locks continues through the winter months as does the salt hauling between ports (see for more information). But with Lakes Eerie and St Clair virtually completely solid with ice, and the Detroit River a surface of solid ice, continued shipping relies on a joint CCGS (Canadian Coast Guard Service) and US Coast Guard operation to keep the channels open. The Detroit Sector of the lakes extends up into the clearing of Lake Huron with bases in Cleveland, Belle Isle and on the Detroit River by Mount Elliot where the clipper Bristol Bay is stationed. However a shortage of vessels capable of clearing ice has led the great lakes shipping companies to call for more investment as part of the next stimulus package. Several vessels still operating the lakes have been held up waiting for ice clearing operations to reach them.

Meanwhile in the harbors along the Detroit River local ice fishermen have been placing faith in the strength of the ice to open fishing holes even in the main body of the river. A perilous operation given that the ice breakers push the ice fully across the width of the river!

2009 CCGS Griffon Griffin
The CCGS Griffon passes under the Ambassador bridge
avoiding the clear water it further widens the Detroit Channel

2009 CCGS Griffon Griffin
Heading Past Windsor the ice creaks
beneath us against the Detroit shore

2009 Detroit ice fishing harbor park
Taking advantage of the thick ice some pitch their tents
and wait in some cold comfort

2009 Detroit ice fishing harbor park
While others simply up end a bucket or sit in the snow

2009 Detroit ice fishing harbor park
Ice forms an igloo around a fountain left running in
the conservatory's Zen Garden on Belle Isle.

        January 18th, New Year in TC

Having spent most of the year in Detroit in what has been a pretty gloomy year all in all, we decided to get out for the new year. A favorite spot in Michigan is Traverse City, we were there in September and very much enjoyed the biking - up to Fish Town (~15miles), around old mission Peninsula (~40miles), around the VASA trail (25 miles). At this time of year it's almost impossible to hire a bike and with the snow waist-high in places, not really practical. So we settled for some walking, and a week of enjoying the cherry capital's micro breweries.

The best place we've found to stay is the Bayshore Resort. At this time of year with their discounts, a room for two comes in at under 90 USD with a full breakfast and a balcony overlooking the bay. Some of their suits have Jacuzzis with log fireplaces. But for me it's the swimming pool and spa pool that make the place ideal. During the day we walked around getting mobbed as usual by the local Mallard population, browsed the many cherry-themed stores and took every opportunity to sample the local ales. For lunch we'd recommend the Mackinaw Brewery - their winter ale is commendable, but their stout is the absolute business. With a cup of Chedder Ale soup, the views along main street and lake freighter themed interior makes it hard to leave. Be warned though that if you go for the onion rings, these onions are the size of soccer balls. For dinner there are many choices, although we were a little disappointed by the Blue Tractor (soggy fries and not a lot of positives) and didn't make it past the mojitos next door. Generally however we pretty much stuck with North Peak. Fantastic hearth baked pizzas, including their famous triple meat pie, huge steaks and burgers (ask for the cajun spices on top) along with some very impressive beers at great prices. Dinner for two including happy hour beers came in at under 25USD. We as always had their IPA, although they had a winter special IPA which was memorable. After this there's really only one place to retire and finish off the evening - the best brewery/pub in Traverse City - Right Brain. Their CEO IPA at 9.5% should just be put on the traverse city map so visitors don't miss it.

After ten days of pampering and probably as many additional pounds, we headed back to Detroit by plane. In the past we've taken the 8 hour Greyhound service which is fine as soon as you switch to the Indian Trails busses in Grand Rapids, but can be a bit of a nightmare between Detroit and GR. This time we splashed out and found Cherry Capital airport to be one of the nicest small airports we've come across. That together with the 35 minute flight in a very smooth CRJ900 was a real treat (try to avoid the flights that use the tiny Saab jets). Back in the D temperatures are around -17F (-27C), windchill of -37C and ice so think on St Claire that the remaining freighters are being convoyed through with the help of icebreakers.

2009 Traverse City
The view over Grand Traverse Bay
from the Bayshore

2009 Traverse City
The spectacular mansions along old mission overlook
a frozen lake michigan

2009 Traverse City
Ice is a major theme at this time of year

2009 Traverse City
But this doesn't stop a hardy few - we even saw surfers out on the ice

2009 Traverse City
If it's ducks you're after they here in great variety
however only the mallards are really tame

2009 Traverse City
Cardinals and Bluebirds can be heard often but are often difficult to spot

2009 Traverse City
And so downtown to dinner. Michael Moore walked by while I was
playing with the camera here and I completely missed him!

2009 North Peak Traverse City
The famous triple meat pie and Pale Ale at Northpeak.

2009 right brain Traverse City

2009 right brain Traverse City

2009 right brain Traverse City
The 'shed on the frontier' feel of Right Brain Brewery.
The walls covered in some fine local arts
(those pictures are formed from pins by the way)

2009 mackinaw Brewery Traverse City
Mackinaw Brewing.

2009 Traverse City
Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!

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A Detroit Diary


  Detroit Books (Winter)

      [1] The Guardian Building:
            Cathedral of Finance

      [2] American City

      [3] Motoons

Short reviews on the book page.

Flickr: Exposure Detroit

 The Archive


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